borscht, o-rama, Schulte and Herr Portland Maine, soup

Soup-O-Rama: Schulte and Herr

When Professor A. asked us to call out our choices for this months “Soup-O-Rama,” I first called Pai Men, thinking it was time to revisit their soups after not ordering them for nearly a year. Then I had the grandiose notion of reviewing three soups for a bit of compare/contrast. Do you know how many soups I’ve had in the past 2 months (not counting the Chowder from last months ‘O-Rama’)?  One. But, I’ve had it twice, so that’s got to count for something. The funny thing is, it’s probably the last soup in the world that I would think I’d be reviewing.


Go ahead and say the name again in your head and this time try not to laugh. It’s not really a soup that you read much about and, lacking a Russian or Ukrainian family, it’s probably not one that you’ve had (I survived six years of Russian language education and have dated a Lithuanian for nearly eight years without ever having it). You never hear someone say, “Wow, I could really for some Borscht right now.”

It’s true.

We actually have a jar of Lithuanian Borscht, Šaltibarščiai, that we purchased at Medeo European Market in Westbrook. It exists in our cabinets because The Missus will buy anything she can that’s Lithuanian, but it looks more like red sauerkraut than soup.

But all of that changed when I had my first chance to try Borscht at Schulte and Herr last month. I was a bit surprised when it was offered on the menu (it’s not a dish I associate with German food), but then owner Steffi told me that it was a compromise with her and her husband, Chef Brian Davin. He wanted to do a Borscht, while she wanted an Oxtail Soup. They met halfway and I’m very thankful that they did.

Just take a moment and look at that beauteous red bowl of home cooked comfort.

Makes you want some Borscht, doesn’t it?

I can tell you, without doubt or hesitation, that it tastes as good as it looks. You may not have a tendency to crave a warm soup on an equally warm day, but this may have you thinking a bit different.  The broth, with all of its chunky, meaty goodness, is surprisingly light in both texture and flavor and a far cry from the cold weather gruel one mentally associates with Borscht. The beets and carrots, along with marjoram, provide an all around pleasant sweetness, but the natural earthiness in the beets (you know, that flavor profile that causes some to compare it to dirt) keeps that pretty level.  A bit of red wine vinegar adds a touch of acidity and helps to further lighten the dish, which is also packed full of potatoes and celery. It’s a simple soup that’s wonderfully crafted, but they really had me at ‘oxtail.’

The meat, braised separately and then added later on in the process, is ridiculously tender. It stews just long enough in the soup to take on a bit of color and sweetness, but never gets lost. While oxtails are naturally fattier, the soup lacks any residual greasiness from their inclusion. However Chef Brian Davin prepares his oxtail for the soup, he seems to take great care to remove any excess fat from the shredded pieces that make their way into each bowl. The first time we shared the soup, which was not a mistake repeated the second time, The Missus was kind enough to give me the last little nugget of oxtail in the cup. Tell me that’s not love.

Served with a few slices of homemade rye bread, a bowl of their Borscht easily makes for a satisfying meal. A cup more than suffices as a starter but, as I’ve just said, don’t make the mistake of trying to share it. Order your own and save the bread for the end to soak up the broth.

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Easter, hanging out with bloggers, hot pepper jelly, Lithuanian eggs, lithuanian traditions

How We Made Easter Eggs

I do realize that posting about Easter nearly a week after its passed is kind of silly, but we had so much fun at Vrylena‘s Easter Egg dying party that I thought it would be silly to not post just a few photos. And, I haven’t been a good blogger lately, so I thought I had to post something.

There was Vrylena’s delightful Hot Pepper Jelly.

Dawn and Adam brought the beverages.

V. also killed it with a Spinach Souffle.

Adam was, by far, the most adept at decorating the eggs. 

But, it was Kate’s boyfriend, Mr. A., that had the best sense of humor when it came to decorating. Cracked egg be damned!

currant jam, monte cristo, national grilled cheese month, sandwiches

Monte Cristo

This is one of those meals that I mentally flog myself over, wondering, “Why have I never eaten this before?”  It’s a combination of two of my favorite things: French Toast and Grilled Ham and Cheese. And it’s been there the whole time (I can’t count how many menus I’ve read its name on). But, it wasn’t until a morning of interwebs browsing, when I came across a recipe for a Monte Cristo on Serious Eats, that I actually felt compelled to have one for the first time.

The original recipe called for adding mustard and serving with a side of warmed currant jelly, but I nixed the mustard and substituted warmed Strawberry Hill Farms Maple Syrup instead. The end result was a wonderfully balanced sweet/savory sandwich that would have been as perfect for brunch as it was for dinner. The Bonne Maman Black Currant Jam that I used also managed to rock my face pretty sufficiently and I believe we’ll be through the jar by the end of next week.

Monte Cristo 

(adapted from Serious Eats)

  • 1/4 cup black currant jelly
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 slices brioche or challah loaf, sliced 1-inch thick
  • 6 slices ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Warmed Maple Syrup


In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup jelly and 2 tablespoons butter. Spread 2 slices bread with mixture. Top each buttered slice in this order:

1 slice cheese, 3 slices ham, and 1 slice cheese. Top with bread and press down lightly. Butter both sides of sandwiches with additional 4 tablespoons butter and set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and salt. Carefully dip one sandwich in egg mixture and allow to soak for 10 to 15 seconds. Turn and soak for another 10 to 15 seconds.

Transfer sandwich to cooling rack set inside rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.  Heat 1/4 cup oil and 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides but butter is not brown. Fry 2 sandwiches at a time, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer to cutting board. Cool sandwiches 2 minutes, then cut in half, serve with warmed maple syrup.

a reason to eat caramel, caramel anything, edible obsession, fat toad farm, goat milk caramel, Maple's Organic Gelato, Mexican chocolate, Taza Chocolate

Edible Obsession: Maple’s Organics Mexican Chocolate with Fat Toad Farm Goat’s Milk Caramel

You want to lick your screen, don’t you? That trifecta of sugary goodness comes at the union of three outstanding locally produced products: Maple’s Organics Gelato, Taza Mexican Chocolate and Fat Toad Farm Caramel

Maple’s is at the heart of the bowl of sin, blending their already wonderful Gelato with bits of crushed up Mexican styled chocolate from Taza, of Sommerville, MA. What Taza does, traditionally stone grinding the chocolate, isn’t being done really any where else in the US. The process makes for a very unique (coarse) texture to the chocolate and concentrates the flavor, making it more intense.  Maple’s chose one of Taza’s spicy flavors (Guajillo? Chipotle? Cayenne? I’ve already tossed the empty container) and blended that in, adding a nice warming touch with the nibs of chocolate.

Warming? Who am I kidding?  It’s hot. Pretty darn hot, at that. It’s not as ridiculous as the Habanero Gelato I’ve had, but it’s up there. The Missus described her encounter with it as:
         “It’s so damn spicy.” (takes another mouthful) “But, the chocolate is so good.”  (takes another mouthful) “But, it’s so damn spicy.” (repeat until the bowl is empty)

That’s where the Fat Toad Vanilla Bean Caramel comes in. I had the ingenious idea of adding the Vermont made goat’s milk caramel to take off some of that heat and it worked, to a point.  It was thick enough to act as a barrier and the milk, itself, knocked down the heat a few notches. It was tolerable but, in the end, my mouth still felt like it was on fire. But, it’s one of those lovely pleasure/pain moments with food, that we endure because the pleasure (Maple’s chocolate gelatos and sorbettos are some of the best around town) outweighs the pain.

If you like to have your ice cream or gelato make you sweat, then look for Maple’s Mexican Chocolate flavor at a multitude of locations (from here to Connecticut). For Fat Toad Caramel, they list William-Sonoma as a seller, but I’d suggest ordering directly from their online store.